Governor Ralph Northam extended an executive order aimed at slowing the progress of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth at a press conference Wednesday. The executive order establishes a daily curfew between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m., mandates a gathering restriction of 10 people, requires that masks be worn in both indoor and outdoor settings within six feet of another person and bans the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m., among other restrictions.
Beginning Jan. 19, in-person gatherings at the University are limited to six people, down from a limit of 10 people at the end of the fall semester. The policy will be reevaluated on Feb. 14 — two weeks after the start of classes.
The executive order initially went into effect Dec. 14, with the intent of remaining in effect until Jan. 31. Northam’s announcement Wednesday extended the ban until the end of February.
The extension comes after increased cases and hospitalizations over the past two months, as well as efforts to expand vaccine distribution after the state’s initial rollout ran into problems caused by “supply and logistics,” according to Northam.
“I know you’re frustrated and out of patience, and I understand it,” Northam said. “At the end of the day, I, as governor of Virginia, am responsible.”
Data from The Washington Post’s vaccine distribution tracker reveals that among the 50 states, Virginia is currently ranked 28th in terms of percentage of vaccines administered, as the state currently administers 26,000 vaccinations per day, according to Northam. Blue Ridge Health District — of which the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County are a part — has administered over 60,000 vaccinations since mid-December, and U.Va. Health’s 600-person vaccination team now administers over 1,000 shots per day.
During the press conference, Northam said that the goal for Virginia — and the country — is to get everyone vaccinated by the end of the summer.
“We are ramping up vaccinations,” Northam said. “This is no time to let down our guard.”
The first known case of a COVID-19 variant in Virginia was identified on Monday. The mutation first appeared in the U.K. and is more easily transmittable and spreads faster than the original virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In a Jan. 21 email to students reaffirming their decision to move forward with the spring semester, University leadership urged all students — regardless of whether or not they have received a vaccine or tested positive for the virus — to follow University and state public health guidelines.
“A successful spring semester will require even greater adherence to U.Va. policies around testing, masks, physical distancing and gatherings,” the email said. “This includes those who have already had COVID-19, as well as those who have received a vaccine.”
The Virginia Department of Health currently reports 488,553 total cases of COVID-19 — 4,707 of which were reported Tuesday — and 20,986 total hospitalizations. The current seven-day positivity rate is 12.3 percent.
The University’s COVID-19 tracker reports 1,929 total cases of COVID-19, of which 136 are active. There are currently 55 individuals hospitalized for COVID-19 at U.Va. Health. Jan. 20 marked the highest number of new admissions, with 16 new COVID-19 patients admitted to U.Va. Health in a single day. The tracker has been down since it was last updated Wednesday afternoon.